FOOTBALLS ARE ROUND!

Soccer – The Most Important of Life’s Unimportant Things


June 25, 2008

New Home


by @ 9:54 am.
Filed under Miscellany, Uncategorized

I’m moving the World Headquarters of Footballs Are Round over to BigSoccer.com for new posts, but I’m leaving the Archives here, because they were too heavy to pack in the U-Haul.

February 24, 2008

Two Unlikely Occurrences


by @ 2:31 pm.
Filed under Uncategorized

Spurs win a Cup Final, and I write a prayer:

May all of our Joy be as intense as Cup Final Joy, and all our Sadness be as fleeting as Cup Final Sadness.

February 20, 2008

A CALL TO ACTION


by @ 1:24 pm.
Filed under Uncategorized

Now that the British government has nationalized Northern Rock in an attempt to save the floundering Home Loan company from insolvency, shouldn’t they take the obvious next step and nationalize Newcastle as well?

Couldn’t hurt . . . .

July 17, 2007

WHAT?


by @ 5:20 pm.
Filed under Major League Soccer, Uncategorized

So the MLS All-Stars are playing the Boston Celtics?

I gotta start paying attention.

Powered by ScribeFire.

May 13, 2007

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: KC Road Trip Edition


by @ 10:56 pm.
Filed under Uncategorized

May 13, 2007

The main thing that separates American soccer from European soccer (apart from, you know, stuff like salary, tradition, attendance, and quality of play) is that American supporter groups get together and share drinks and good cheer before and after the matches, rather than pelting each other with cobblestones and hitting each other with blunt objects. Now, call me an Ugly American if you will, but I think our custom is better.

But that’s just me.

Not only that, but if you’re really, really lucky, you tailgate with people like the Cauldron in Kansas City, you get home made barbecue and Newcastle Brown Ale on tap.

Newcastle.

On tap.

At a tailgate.

It’s like finding one of the Seven Lost Cities of Gold. But with soccer. I’ll take that over a cricket bat upside the head any day.

I met Dax McCarty’s Uncle at the tailgate – a terrific gentleman who told some really cool “young Dax” stories. That was one of the highlights of the day.

I also got to see the great Bruce McGuire, who writes the DuNord soccer blog. Usually when you hear someone mention Bruce and DuNord, you see the word “indispensable” thrown in there, and rightly so. If you’re not reading it every day, you should be.

Bruce was covering the game for Top Drawer Soccer, and actually had credentials around his neck. Every amateur soccer blogger’s dream come true. Very cool gig for him, but it kept him from having enough time to hang out and drink some of the Cauldron’s beer with me. Such is the journalist’s life.

I guess.

Arrowhead Stadium is cavernous. It’s a beautiful stadium – old, but not in a decrepit run-down way. You could mistake if for a new stadium if you didn’t know better. It has the third best grass in MLS, outside of PHP and PHP Field 1. George Toma invented modern professional sports grounds keeping, and this is his house. The turf looked like a snooker felt, and probably played just as smooth.

For soccer, the only problem with Arrowhead is that the 70,000 empty seats detract mightily from the passion and enthusiasm of the 10,000 or so that actually come to the game. And for a small crowd, they are a good crowd. I’ve said many times in the past that the people of KC are stupid, in that they have a jewel of a soccer team, but fail to support it. It would be a crime if this franchise got moved, and it would be a slap in the face to the small but loyal group that actually show up.

Wake up, people!

The Cauldron supporters group, as a matter of fact, have grown threefold from last season. Part of the growth comes from a small but hardy group of Argentinian expatriates who have brought South American style enthusiasm to the group. They also moved from behind the goal to the TV side of the field, halfway between the endline and midfield. I think this makes them more visible, and lets them be heard quite a bit better. Behind the goal at PHP is terrific, because you’re close to the action. At Arrowhead, you’re wayyyy back. It was a good change of venue for them.

The Inferno was given a good section in the corner, on the expensive seat side. We made it to our seats toward the end of the FC Dallas warm up, and it was gratifying to be close enough to start some chants to the boys, and see them react. One of the things I love about road trips is that I really believe our boys appreciate the effort.

I may be naive, but I believe it means something to them, as much as it means something to us to know that it does. Seeing Richetti smile when we starting calling out his name, well, I’ll pay $3.20 a gallon and drive to Missouri any old day for that.

We came up with a new chant for the coach, sung to the tune of “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow”. You know: “Steve Morrow, Steve Morrow, we love ya, Steve Morrow, you’re only a game away . . .”

Not bad for improvisation.

We tried to get something going for Richetti to the tune “On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese . . .”, but we’re still working on it. You can’t rush genius. You just can’t.

And Dario was back. He was as glad to see us as we were to see him, I know, because he saw us from the field.

Oh, and in case you were wondering if he’d be rusty after the long layoff, let me sum it up concisely.

No.

He was sharp. Razor sharp. He had his first save in the first minute on a wicked header by Sasha Victorine that he tipped over the bar with lightning reflexes. Without a doubt, he was ready to play.

We had a great time in our little corner, singing, chanting, and, in the second half, abusing Kevin Hartman. Class act that he is, he responded in the way that a gentleman and professional should.

That’s right – he turned to us and grabbed his crotch.

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin.

I hope your Mom was watching. I’m sure that made her Mother’s Day one to remember. “Eight pounds, twelve ounces, and now he’s grabbing his crotch in front of 10,000 people. I’m so proud”.

And of course this only caused us to give the boy our full and undivided attention, which has driven better keepers than him to therapy and long-term medication. We brought out the big guns, commencing a chant that called into question the dimensions, indeed if not the actual existence, of certain aspects of the man’s physiology.

As this is a family website, I’ll only say that the chant rhymed with “beetle stick” and let it go at that. If your kids read this and want further elaboration, please, by all means, don’t hesitate to drop Buzz an email. He loves stuff like that.

Now, this was cute. Over to our right, there was a group of half-a-dozen youth soccer players, no more than 8 or 9 years old, all in their uniforms and everything. Good home team kids that they were, they were loyal to the Wizards, and were taking umbrage at our vociferousness. They starting chanting “Let’s go Wizards”, incessantly, and in a highly pitched if not loud chant, for the rest of the match. It was charming.

Unsuccessful, but charming.

Also, there was a young lady several rows above us who yelled abusive epithets in our direction and kept flipping us the bird.

Okay, that wasn’t so much ‘cute’ as it was ‘entertaining’. Especially when a grandfatherly-looking security guard took her aside and lectured her for her very un-ladylike behavior. Kansas City is a very respectable town, don’t kid yourself.

Parrish got her phone number. Expect a Spring wedding.

Sadly, every single goal scored in the game was at the far end of the stadium, so we barely saw them. Of course, that didn’t stop Harlan some unidentified person from lighting off a smoke bomb in our section, in celebration.

Memo To All MLS Supporters Groups Contemplating KC Roadtrips: I have it on good authority that the entire security staff at Arrowhead stadium has had their sense of humor surgically removed. This is apparently a prerequisite for getting the gig.

The only thing the Greenshirts at Arrowhead hate worse than road flares and smoke bombs, it seems, is unauthorized paper products. They rushed our section and stomped out the smoke bomb, sure, but they got downright huffy when we threw confetti, and actually threatened one of our number with a night in jail for throwing a streamer up in the air.

Now, let’s parse that out, briefly, shall we? One of the security staff at Arrowhead Stadium threatened to:

1.arrest a person and take them to jail
2.for throwing a streamer
3.straight up in the air.

Not a glass bottle or a ball peen hammer or a gardening brick, mind you. No, a rolled up stream of of crepe paper.

And not on to the field, mind you, where it could have put someone’s eye out. No, straight up in the air, so that it remained at all times, in our very own section.

Guys, really, ease up. We’re not a bunch of faux-fascist hooligan eurotrash here. We’re a bunch of folks from out of town, enjoying a game. Take some advice from the great Bill Murray and “Lighten up, Francis”.

But troopers that we are, we refused to let the man keep us down, and continued to enjoy our evening of Major League Soccer (Experience the Passion!).

When the final whistle blew (after a late KC goal and an interminably long four minutes of extra time), the team, to a man, came over to our section and gave us some love. Handshakes, high-fives, and attaboys all around. It was a great win on a great night.

Sometimes, life is just good like that.

See you Thursday for the first Brimstone match of the year.

March 30, 2007

THEY’RE BAD, THEY’RE NATIONWIDE


by @ 8:02 am.
Filed under Uncategorized

Which country has the worst hooligans? England? Holland? Germany?

Sissies.

The Greeks are now the undisputed champions of hooliganism:

ATHENS, Greece – The Greek government suspended play in professional soccer, basketball and other team sports for two weeks Friday after a fan was killed in a volleyball riot.

The ban lasts until April 13.

A man was killed and five others were hospitalized Thursday when fans from rival women’s volleyball clubs Panathinaikos Athens and Olympiakos Piraeus fought near Athens.

Volleyball hooligans.

Greece is so hardcore, they have volleyball hoooligans.

Not just volleyball hooligans, but women’s volleyball hooligans.

That buzzing you hear is the sound of Aristotle spinning in his grave.

February 26, 2007

LIFE WITH A CHELSEA FAN


by @ 1:50 pm.
Filed under Uncategorized

So, I check my cellphone after my soccer game yesterday, and I see that Cid has called me. Well, I had just talked to her right before the time indicated on the missed call screen, so I figured something must be up. Like the dutiful husband I am, I immedately call her.

“OH MY GOD, DAVID, YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED!”

Immediately, images of family tragedy, death, destruction and mayhem flash through my brain, and I mentally begin to prepare myself for bad news.

“JOHN TERRY GOT KNOCKED OUT DURING THE CUP FINAL AND THEY HAD TO CARRY HIM OFF ON A STRETCHER! IT WAS TERRIBLE!”

Relief floods through my system as I realize the house hasn’t burned down and none of the children has lost a limb in a terrible bicycle accident or anything.

“Okay, don’t tell me anymore, I want to watch it when I get home”.

“Okay, I won’t say anything else, but I thought you needed to know”.

I love that woman.

September 27, 2006

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FCD V RSL


by @ 9:05 am.
Filed under Uncategorized

 

Frankly, I was starting to get worried. So many of my road trips to Pizza Hut Park this year have ended as losses, the word “jinx” was starting to creep out of my subconscious and into the frontal lobe with alarming regularity.
 
I mean, I’m not superstitious or anything, but when that many losses coincide with that many road trips, one starts to move away from superstition and enter the murky world of statistical certainty.
 
Fortunately, I failed statistics in college, and I wouldn’t know statistical certainty if it bit me on the big toe. Thus, I felt it was safe to hit the road Saturday and head down to the Friscoplex for the night’s meeting with ReAL SaLT LaKE, or however they spell that deal.
 
Sadly, the lovely Cid could not accompany me, so I was rolling’ solo in the Camry, with a few bucks in my pocket, a tank full of $2.00 gas, and some specially prepared personal mix CD’s crankin’ from the stereo (”personal mix” in this case meaning “nothing recorded after 1990″).
 
I know that sounds like a recipe for trouble, but I was bound to be on my best behavior. Partly because I fear the lovely Cid, partly because my friends in the Inferno, I believe, are secretly plotting to add a “no Cid, no game” provision to my membership. I don’t totally disagree with that, by the way. I hate not having her with me.
 
The game itself was full of Goalkeepery goodness. First, we had our old friend Scott Garlick netminding for Salt Lake. Great guy, one who served us well for lots of years. I point that out to underline my (minority) opinion that the man categorically did NOT deserve the pounding he took from the Inferno.
 
Joe Cannon? Yes.
 
Kevin Hartman? Oh yeah.
 
Zach Thornton? Sure.
 
But not Scotty. He’s our guy. He’s one of us. I could not, for instance, take part in any of the uglier chants that were being flung his way, like, say, “Dal-las Re-ject.” That was uncalled for. As were some of the things said about the man’s ancestry. Now, okay, I did chant “mussssssssstache…..musssssssstache….” because let’s face it, that’s funny. But I can’t abide being ugly to the man. He’s a good’un and deserves better from us.
 
And then, on our side, we had the PHP debut of Shaka Hislop. Our very own T & T World Cup hero. He had a sharp game, even if RSL didn’t give him much to do apart from gather up some stray through-balls, and track down the occasional long cross.
 
The one goal he conceded was actually a pretty fine finish from Jeff Cunningham, from a breakaway. No shame in that – it was quality work from the man. 
 
There was a brief discussion among the Inferno about taking up a collection for Mr. C so he could afford a good barber when he got home to Utah. He was having what my wife would refer to as an “unfortunate hair episode.” But then someone pointed out that was probably just how the young people do their hair these days, and so the subject was dropped. Plus nobody wanted to spend their beer money. But I digress.
 
So as if Garlick v Hislop wasn’t enough, along about halfway through the first half, there was a buzz, a stir, a commotion, a “brouhaha” if you will, just a few rows above me. I turned around to see what it was about, and what do I see?
 
Himself.
 
The man. El León. Dario Sala.
 
Hangin’ with the Inferno.
 
Does it get any better than that? Say what you will about the status of soccer as a second-tier sport in this country, and how it will never have the following it has around the world, but let me ask you something. When’s the last time you think something similar happened in an NFL stadium, not to mention MLB or the NBA?
 
Let me step out on a limb here and guess. I’m gonna go ahead and say it was, oh, about NEVER ago.
 
(Granted, you occasionally see a player in the stands at a Pistons game, but that’s a different story altogether.)
 
Yet there he was, along with his wife Margot, laughing, visiting, and generally feeling at home, as if among friends (which they were). Though I’m not sure how much of the game Dario saw, being as he was unwilling to say “no” to any of the young kids who wanted to meet him and get an autograph (okay, let’s don’t lie, there were also the middle aged geeks like me who wanted pictures, too).
 
Not only that, but in a totally original (and, I’m willing to wager, unprecedented) move, Dario actually asked all of us for our autographs. He was wearing an Inferno t-shirt, and insisted that each member present sign it for him.
 
Class. The man is pure class. He is Plato’s ideal, and Joseph Campbell’s archetype, of class.
 
Margot, too. She actually chatted with Cid on the cell phone for five good minutes. Then she handed the phone to Dario, who razzed her about missing the game.
 
Additionally, Dario is quite the raconteur. Listening to him tell us the first-hand story of the now legendary “don’t even look at me” game against Tigres in the Rio Grande Cup was priceless. It was like having Willie Mays describe the catch he made to rob Vic Wertz in the ‘56 series. Incredible.
 
As for the game (oh yeah, the game!), well, it was pretty well sewn up by the 15th minute. Two quick goals and the Lakers never really threatened. Even after Cunningham pulled one back in the second half, there was never really any danger they were going to go ballistic and rob us like they did last weekend.
 
The first goal came from Vanney, who hit a beautiful left footed cross from the right touchline. It curled to within a yard of the far post where Carlos Ruiz headed it straight down and beat Scotty to the near post. I don’t think Carlos scores with his head very much, so it was nice to witness.
 
The second goal, I’m sure, will be a Goal of the Year candidate; if it isn’t, they should just stop having such thing as a GOTY. Kenny Cooper, streaking down the left side (in the soccer sense, not the fad-from-the-70s sense) gets to the 18, stops on a dime, looks up, then chips a long, curling shot to the far post. Scott Garlick (along with everyone else at Pizza Hut Park) just watched it, expecting it to go way high and wide. Then the ball just dropped like a dead duck and fell under the cross bar.
 
It was impetuous. Homeric. Not one in ten players even thinks to try that shot, much less make it. Poor Scott had this empty, disbelieving look on his face, like, say if you went to start your car in the morning only to see a small, flaming meteor come down from the heavens and smash it to smithereens. Not his night.
 
After all that, it was on to the official Inferno after-party. Unfortunately, I cannot go into detail about this particular soirée, for I have had to invoke the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” rule for very good (if not immediately obvious) reasons. Sorry.
 
Anyway, see you next weekend for Columbus Motley Crew.

June 20, 2005

MLS NOTES: WEEK 12


by @ 10:57 am.
Filed under Uncategorized

• The midweek matchups were entertaining and surprising. The DC v Chicago game was a seven goal barn burner (the entertaining part), while Colorado defeated Los Angeles 1-nil (yes, that would be the surprising part).

• The two least likely scorers in the Chicago v KC game were Jim Curtin and Preki, and they both scored. Jim Curtin, well, because he’s Jim Curtin (no disrespect to Jim, who is a fine professional, but he’s not the guy you want spearheading your attack), and Preki, because he’s 73 years old and destroyed his leg just over a year ago. Preki is awesome. Okay, he’s not really 73, but he’s older than me, for pity’s sake, and he’s still got it.

• I thought the PK call in the first half of the Metros v Crew game was bogus. Cornell Glen went down like a late 90s dotcom stock. You could actually see him drag his left foot across Zach Wells’ body rather than try to play his own (poorly played) ball.

• But having said that, why not let him take the penalty kick he himself ‘earned’? Chris Henderson didn’t even come close. I don’t get either part of that whole transaction.

• I’ll just go ahead now and eat crow for my criticism of the Wolyniec-for-Razov trade. Razov scored twice for the Metros, and Woly set up the second Columbus goal. I can’t always be right, okay?

• The Metros/Crew game gets at least a 6 on the newbie scale. Good energy, loud crowd, three goals in the first half. Pretty entertaining stuff. A few points deducted for artificial turf; I don’t know if that’s fair, but hey, it’s my scale, and I hate plastic grass.

• How can the match between the top two teams in the Western Conference NOT BE TELEVISED? That’s insane. I cut MLS a lot of slack, I know they can’t do everything, but come awwwn. If you’re going to be Major League, you can’t allow this kind of thing to happen. Can you imagine the NFL allowing this? I understand the vagaries of local television contracts and scheduling and all that, but still.

• So, anyway, I hear that FC Dallas beat LA Galaxy 1-nil. At least that’s the word on the street. I have no, you know, visual PROOF or anything. If true, it’s a famous victory, considering FCD are without Carlos Ruiz and Eddie Johnson. Nobody at the start of the season, not the most starry-eyed optimist, would have guessed how deep the Dallas bench is. The recent run of form would be impressive enough at full strength, but given the facts, it is stupendous.

• The league-leading Revs had nothing for DC United. It took a span of about two minutes for the Champs to put two goals on New England, and that was that. Well, the Revs are good, but they ain’t Arsenal, I guess. Just as well; if those guys had gone undefeated, surely the end of Western Civilization couldn’t have been too long in following.

• Kelly Gray is making the most of his move out west to San Jose. He had a very well taken goal early in the San Jose v Real Salt Lake match. I mean really well taken. He got the good through ball, dribbled into the box and calmly beat DJ Countess far post. It always amazes me what a change of scenery can do for a guy’s career.

• All three SJ goals in the first half were well taken. Chung and Barrett scoring in addition to Gray. Barrett played a ball to the wing while about 40 yards from goal, then sprinted to the box just in time to personally finish the resulting corss. Very smart, very hustling goal by Barrett.

• Speaking of the reborative effects of a change of scenery, how about Jeff Cunningham and his hat trick? There must be something about getting out of Columbus that frees these guys from some sort of enchantment-like torpor, kind of like when the White Witch put Narnia in a permanent state of winter. Obscure literary references aside, Jeff is scoring again, and boy can’t the Rapids use that?

• Let’s be honest though, shall we? Cunningham’s flop in the penalty box was absolutely shameful. Terry Vaughan will be kicking himself when he watches the tape.

• Memo to Christian Miles: unless he himself has told you differently, why don’t you just go ahead and pronounce Cunningham as ‘cunning-ham’ rather than ‘cunningum’, okay? In fact, even if he did tell you to say it like that, he was teasing you, just to see if you’d actually pronounce it like that on TV. In the future, if you are going to say ‘Cunningham’, go ahead and think Richie from “Happy Days”.

June 14, 2005

MLS NOTES: WEEK 11


by @ 12:00 am.
Filed under Uncategorized

· In my view the most exciting thing about the Columbus/Colorado match was the news from Waldo and Stoner that Conor Casey may be coming to MLS. He’d be a good fit for his hometown Rapids, and apparently the manager at his German club, Mainz, is threatening to cut him if he plays in the Gold Cup for the USMNT. Welcome home, I say.

· Columbus won the game on a PK, off of a verrrrrry questionable call. Looked like an all-ball makeup-call to moi. Mario Rodriguez, who ‘suffered’ the foul, caused trouble all day for the Rapids defense, it must said, so it wasn’t completely unfair or unexpected for the Crew to score.

· Whenever the Crew did something good, the crowd could muster no more noise than you might hear from a polite PGA gallery when some guy who’s way out of the lead finishes the 18th hole. Sad.

· In another game in which the crowd sounded less like a soccer crowd and more like an enthusiastic Little League crowd, the Wizards and the Revs faced off at cavernous Arrowhead Stadium. A KC own-goal was the highlight of the first half, apart from watching Nick Garcia and Diego Gutierrez foul and get fouled.

· Perhaps I’ll start a new rating scale called the Newbie Factor. Occasionally I’ll rate games based on the likelihood that a first time soccer watcher would ever watch again. Quality of play and crowd atmosphere will enter into the equation. The first half of the game gets a 3 on the Newbie Factor scale of 1-10.

· The second half started off fast, almost a six. But then the Revs scored the second goal and it got boring very quickly.

· Oh, and the Crew/Rapids match gets a four. It almost got a five, and had the Raps managed to score at the end of injury time, it may well have done so.

· Clint Mathis looked old and tired for RSL against the Galaxy. Has he been hurt, or sick lately? He’s not all that old at 28. What’s the story?

· Landon picked up right where he left off before going off with the Nats. There’s no way you can say it wasn’t a good move coming back to America. He needs minutes to stay sharp for the World Cup, and he wasn’t going to get them in Germany. Case closed on that one.

· Yet another #99 in the league, with Ante Razov taking that number with the Metrostars. Ugh. This ain’t the NFL, kids, and Ante ain’t Mark Gastineau. Enough already.

· Zach Wells earned his pay against DC, and there’s no two ways about it. He wasn’t getting a great deal of help defensively either. Even Shep Messing, who was no slouch between the pipes in his day, was impressed.

· Speaking of which, here’s a memo for all you Metros fans. You’re missing a great drinking game opportunity with Shep. Every time he says Wowwwww”, take a shot. You’ll be feeling no pain by halftime.

· You underage Metros fans, however . . . just say no, all right? Underage drinking is bad, m’kay?

· I was going to give props to the Metros fans for sounding so loud and enthusiastic on the MSG broadcast, but it turns out the sound was really coming from the DC fans behind the right-side-of-the-screen goal. Wow. Much props, again, to the Barra Brava and Screaming Eagles.

· Chicago’s Samuel Caballero does a Steve Lyon impersonation and drops trou on the sidelines during the game with FC Dallas. He suffered a wardrobe malfunction of some sort and had to change shorts on the fly. So to speak. Michael Powell, call your office.

· Carlos Ruiz came down on another player’s foot and twisted his ankle so badly that I couldn’t bring myself to watch the replay. His foot was pointing at an angle God never intended feet to point to. My ankle actually started hurting.

· So, Thomas Rongen is already in the booth calling Chivas games? I mean, if it wasn’t him, it was one of those Thomas Rongen impersonators, like you might see in Vegas.

· I was very happy to see young Brad Guzan back in goal for Chivas. Hans Westerhof knows goalkeeping, if nothing else. He played terrifically, as well (Brad, not Hans). The only goal he gave up was on a breakaway. The kid’s going to be huge in this league. Or maybe some other league.

· Shame nobody saw the game live, though. No, I don’t mean on television, I mean at the Home Depot Center. Was this one of those FIFA-mandated play-behind-closed-doors games, or what?

· Do you think it irks Mr. Vergara that for all the talent he brought from Mexico, it’s good old Easy Ezra Hendrickson that scored the tying goal? Just a thought.

June 13, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: CHICAGO v FC DALLAS


by @ 10:32 pm.
Filed under Uncategorized

The Football Club are wearing the silver road kits, and Brian Haynes is in the booth with Brad Sham. Both these things are pretty cool, in my book. Dave Dir, Brad’s usual partner, is in Holland helping Sigi Schmid with the U20 National Team, who got off to a grand start, beating Argentina 1-0 in their first match.

The folks in Section 8 sound great, giving the match a very European feel. Loud chanting, drumming; very nice. I hope they get quieted down without delay, but I still like to hear it at any MLS match. All partisanship aside, this is a wonderful group of fans.

This is the last scheduled Brimstone match this season, although if things work out, we conceivably could meet the Fire again in both the US Open Cup, and, dare I say it, the MLS Cup. Either or both would be fine with me. So even with a win today, we couldn’t quite say the Cup was decided.

Five minutes haven’t gone by and Scott Garlick has already made a terrific save off the header by . . . someone. That was not by any means a garden variety save. Diving to the left, getting a hand on the ball, and getting enough on it to keep it from Ivan Guerrero, who was standing on the doorstep.

Ronnie just tried to to chip Zach Thornton from about 40 yards, and did. Only the left goalpost kept him from a GOTY candidate. Or, I should say, another GOTY candidate.

Owwwwwwwwww! Carlos Ruiz, who already had a sore ankle, just came down on Gonzalo Segares’ foot and twisted his right ankle horribly. It made me cringe just watching it. If you’ve ever had one of those really severe ankle sprains (and I’ve had a few), you know how bad that is.
Even if he comes back in the game, that had to hurt terribly. I couldn’t even watch the replay; I literally turned my head away from the screen. Suffice to say he came down so that his foot pointed on an angle that God never intended.

He’s not coming back. Abe Thompson comes on for El Pescadito.

[expletive deleted]

Well . . . hasn’t this been an eventful first 10 minutes? Excuse me while I go to the fridge for an adult beverage . . .

Okay, I’m back. I have a lot of confidence in Abe Thompson, and for that matter in every player on the bench, but this still isn’t good. When the story of this season is written, it may well revolve around the strength of Colin Clarke’s bench.

Roberto Mina gets a yellow card for shoving Justin Mapp to the ground. Mapp should get a yellow for bad acting.
Well . . . now they’re saying Mapp did indeed get the yellow card.
Heh heh heh.

Bobby Rhine is sporting the GBFHAC this week (Great Big Frankie Hejduk Arm Cast, for you kids not in the know). Frankie’s been wearing his so long I’m starting to think he’s just decided it’s cool having a blunt instrument attached to his arm.

Nate Jaqua scores at the 20 minute mark. He manages to head in a looping, deflected ball from Justin Mapp, even though he was surrounded by both Gbandi and Gvanney. There really wasn’t much Scotty could do; he also sees his road shutout streak come to an end, adding insult to injury.

The redoubtable Brad Sham tells us the Fire are 6-1 this season when scoring first.

[expletive deleted]
[again]

Chicago’s Samuel Caballero does a Steve Lyon impersonation and drops trou on the sidelines. He suffered a wardrobe malfunction of some sort and had to change shorts on the fly. So to speak.
Michael Powell, call your office.

Simo Valakari gets a yellow card for dropping Segares. This is not a cause for alarm, but rather a sign that the universe is unfolding as it should.

Brian Haynes is dong a great job as an analyst, by the way. Stellar.

There are thunderstorms in the area around the Steam Of Consciousness world headquarters here in central Oklahoma, and I’m experiencing, once again, one of the few drawbacks of Satellite TV. The picture is going in and out. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I can’t complain too much, because I live in a truly wonderful time of televised soccer. Even with weather related interruptions, it is miraculous, really, when you consider the advances in technology in our lifetime, as well as the history of soccer in this country. What the folks did during the days of the Land Run without DirecTV and air-conditioning, I’ll never know.

Go ahead, click the link, learn some history; this is a full-service column and we like to educate as well as entertain and inform.

But I digress.

Aaron Pitchkolan takes a shot at chipping Thornton. It doesn’t work, but I like the awareness he showed in taking it. I’m a bit concerned that chipping the keeper is about all the offense we’ve mustered in the first half, but I’m not yet worried.

Yet.

Vanney almost scores on a corner, but his header drops to his own feet and he can’t pop it in from that angle.

We’re a playing a bit more on our heels than I’m used to seeing in the last few weeks. But then again, the Fire are on a good run of form lately. They hung five goals on Chivas last week. Jaqua had a hat trick; this being one of the few times that particular combination of words has ever been written in the history of the internet, I’m sure.

I’ll be happy to get to halftime only a goal down. We need some coaching magic from Coach Colin to get us on track. In other years, being a goal behind, at the half, on the road, would cause me great consternation and trepidation. This season is different however. We’re in this. I shan’t say we’ve got them right where we want them, but we’re in this thing, no doubt.

Ronnie gets a yellow card for a foul, but Jesse Marsch gets no card for retaliating. Mr. Jones, the referee, is calling only his second MLS match. The kid’s gotta learn sometime, I suppose, but that was a bit of a dodgy call.

So it is indeed 1-0 at the half, in favor of the Fire. No sweat. It’s the way a half of soccer goes sometimes. I’m sure Coach will have some words of wisdom at the half (high-volume though they be), and we’ll come out swinging after the break.

I hate to see Carlos injured though. He’s been so good lately.
I can’t tell you how much my respect for this man has increased since he came to Dallas. Not just because I’m an insufferable homer, either (though I clearly am).

He’s grown as a player; he’s become more of a leader and less of a diver. It’s been great to watch. When he goes to ground this season, he does so because he’s earned it with a hard foul, and he doesn’t make a meal of it.

I loves that Little Fish (as always, in a very manly, soccer-specific manner).

I just watched the replay of Ronnie’s off-the-post chip of Thornton. Zach’s body language showed total and complete surprise. It was entertaining to see. Moreover, the ball came fairly close to rebounding off his body and into the goal. That would have been oh-so-good to see. I like Zach Thornton, mind you, but he is with the Fire, after all.

Game on for the second half. The very creditable box of California Merlot (sorry Miles) is kicking in. It is soothing my nerves and making me feel like the guy in the old UB40 song (red red wine you make me feel so fine, you keep me rockin’ all of the time).

Life, for all its problems, is good when you can sit around in a free country, drinking wine, watching futbol on the satellite, tapping away on the laptop, and rooting for your favorite team.

Again, though, I digress.

Thompson gets an early chance, and just misses by inches. Good job by Thornton making himself big(ger).

I love the way Brian Haynes continually rags the Fire players for staying on the ground a bit too long when they’ve been (ostensibly) fouled. I like Dave Dir, but Haynes is really quite enjoyable in the on-air analyst role. He’s also an exceptional assistant coach, so I doubt he’ll be changing jobs anytime soon. Speaking of which, if you missed the recent Sports Illustrated article on Eddie Johnson, go check it out. It speaks very highly of both Eddie and Brian.

Abe Thompson pressures Thornton on a back-pass and very nearly causes Zach to give up the goods. I’m liking Abe more and more every minute.

Whoa. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than to be good. In the 68th minute, Rhine gets beat around the corner by Mapp, who gets the ball to Chris Rolfe, who taps it in for a goal. Nearly. But in an incredibly good call by Assistant Referee, the whistle blows; the ball just barely got over the end line as Mapp made the pass; the score remains the same.
Give that man a raise, MLS.

The picture is breaking up again, as the thunderstorms get worse here in God’s own country. Either that or I’ve had too much wine.

Nope, it’s definitely not the wine. To be sure, I went to the front door; it’s raining and thundering to beat the band. It’s clearly the satellite.

Now I’ve lost the feed completely.

Well, this is unprecedented. I can’t watch the end of the match.
Hmmm…..

Let us go to MLSnet.com and hope to get the video there.

This, of course, is a very tricky proposition, because one must click on the link, avoid seeing the headlines (by very cleverly covering most of the screen with the right hand), and find one’s way to the ’sights and sounds’ link.

Then one must find the link for the appropriate match, click it, and hope the completed game is online. This will take both patience, and a willingness to ignore the reality of the space/time continuum as one watches the remainder of the game, ex post facto.

I don’t think that will be too much of a challenge, however, as I am a Tivo user, and was probably a bit behind the live action anyway, what with replays, and trips to the refrigerator, and such.

But still, I can’t bear the thought of watching the rest of the game while already knowing the result. It’s like . . . like . . . well, I can’t think of what it’s like, but it’s terribly unsatisfying.
Not to mention the fact that such a thing is clearly against the whole “Steam Of Consciousness” ethos.

Well, let’s see what we can get . . .

As it turns out, nothing. I couldn’t catch the end of the match on either video or audio, try as I might.

I learn from MLSnet.com (good for results, but not for aforementioned video or audio), that we lost 2-nil. The second goal coming from Lubos Whoeverimov.

Well, you can’t win EVERY game on a road trip, now, can you?

I’m far too tired to wait for the video to show up on MLSnet.com, and I’m far too unworried about this result to fret about it.

Besides, I have bigger worries on my horizon, as I must report at 8:00 am tomorrow morning for jury duty.
I should get some sleep. I mean, the last time this happened, I ended up on a TWO MONTH LONG murder trial. I can’t begin to tell you how awful that was.

Although, with the mood I’m in right this second, I doubt any lawyer would accept me, prosecution or defense, as I plan on going into the courtroom feigning insanity; drooling, chewing on my fingers, and chanting “Chicago rules, Chicago rules, guilty, guilty, guilty, die, die, die !”

What attorney worth their salt wouldn’t dismiss me for insanity right then and there?

See you next week for the Dirty Dirty Galaxy game; unless I’m sequestered, that is.

June 7, 2005

GREAT ARTICLE ON MODERN GOALKEEPING


by @ 3:38 pm.
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Sir Alex Ferguson needs to read this, understand this, and live this.

You can just enjoy it.

June 6, 2005

KASEY!


by @ 11:21 am.
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USSOCCER.COM COVERAGE OF US/COSTA RICA


by @ 11:10 am.
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Good video and good articles about the Costa Rica match on ussoccer.com. Do check it out.

June 5, 2005

NEW BLOG


by @ 3:52 am.
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I’m adding the Hexagonal Blog to the links list. Mr. Hamilton is following the CONCACAF quest for Germany, and doing it in fine fashion. Dave sez: Check it out.

MLS NOTES: WEEK 10


by @ 3:39 am.
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• Things didn’t look good early on for the Westerhof era at Chivas. It took 1:30 for the goats to give up their 25th goal of the year. The Fire are tough to beat this season when they score first. Martin Zuniga wasn’t at fault, but I’m going to blame him anyway, because I want to see Guzan get his spot back.

• But before Mr. Vergara could fire his 2nd Dutchman of the year, Antonio Martinez (whose nickname, oddly enough, is Chivas) leveled the score in the 5th minute. Should be an interesting run for Hans. They went into halftime up 2-1 and before too much of the second half was gone, they were down 3-2; it only got worse. Did I mention I want to see Guzan back?

• What a discouraging beating to take in front of the new gaffer. Cabezas will roll, now that Rongen isn’t around to take the blame.

• Five goals for the Fire. No comment, other than . . . wow. Okay, one comment. Nat Jaqua scored a hat trick. And I repeat . . . wow.

• Has anybody ever won the “Radio Shack MLS Magic Minute”? The odds seem lottery-like to me. I’ll have to have the boys down at NASA crunch the numbers, but it seems like a pretty big long shot. What do you win, anyway? It’s a Radio Shack promotion; a four-way gold-plated bi-directional splitter, perhaps?

• FC Dallas got a break when Bruce Arena left Greg Vanney off the game day roster for the Costa Rica match. Since FCD were already in Salt Lake for their match up with ReAL, Vanney started for Dallas and played well, saving a goal off the line, among other things.

• Abe Thompson scored his first goal as a professional. Oddly, he set up the first goal by firing a shot off DJ Countess, who gave up a rebound that Ronnie O’Brien slotted home. On Abe’s goal, Ronnie fired the shot, DJ gave up another rebound, and Abe slotted it home. Crazy stuff.

• The grass at Rice-Eccles Stadium looked good, and the games were good as well. Forty thousand fans for the USA/CR match, and most of those stayed for the beginning of the RSL/FCD game; though to be honest it looked like a lot of them packed it in and went home at halftime. Still, congratulations to the people of SLC for putting on a good show.

• Back in April, I ripped the staff at Gillette stadium, home of the Revolution, for the horrible grass the team had to play on at their home opener. Not that they noticed then and not that they’ll notice now, but today, I give them kudos. They managed to mow the field in a wavy pattern which, on television, gives the optical illusion of having a hilly field. It looked for all the world like guys were running up and then down as they traversed the pitch. Maybe some thought this was annoying, but it amused me to no end. Then again, I’m easily amused. Optical illusions, shiny objects, you name it.

• This particular round of World Cup Qualifying was NOT kind to New England. They were without Dempsey, Noonan, Ralston, and Avery John, who was with Trinidad and Tobago. That’s roughly half the team’s scoring output for this season. And Twellman went out in the second half with a hamstring injury. AND THEY MANAGED A DRAW! Scary. Very Scary. Fear the Revs.

• King of Goals sighting! Sergio Galvan Rey comes up big for Metrostars again, scoring the tying goal in the 73rd minute. I want all you SGR detractors to personally apologize to the man, ya hear?

• The Galaxy don’t often blow a lead at home. So it’s always fun to see it when it happens. Oops. My “lack of objectivity” warning light just came on. Let me reset that bad boy and move on here.

• The sound of screaming pre-teen girls at the Home Depot Center was overwhelming. I’d prefer the big plastic horns. Though I suppose a paying customer is a paying customer.

• Bottom line on the Metros/Galaxy draw: Metros gain a point, Gals lose two. If I’m a Metros fan I have to like the way things are going for the club. And I am, kinda.

• I started watching DC/San Jose, but lost interest. My apologies; anyone want to comment on the 0-0 draw? The part I saw was lackluster. Maybe it was because I was reduced to watching it on MLSnet.com, or maybe it was really lackluster. Discuss.

• Part of the problem for DC may be that Freddy is gone to The Netherlands for the U20 World Cup. DC is going to find out how important the kid is while he’s gone. Depending on how well we do, he could be away from the club the entire month of June.

• Only Columbus and Metros have similar problem, but they can do without Danny Szetela much easier than DC can do without Adu. Eddie Gaven’s absence will not be easy for the Metrostars, but still isn’t as bad, in my view, as DC going without the Kid.

• Tim Ward of Metrostars and Chad Barrett of Chicago are also gone to Holland, but won’t be as big a loss. I don’t mean that pejoratively, however. Have I missed anyone?

June 4, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: ReAL SALT LAKE v FC DALLAS


by @ 11:34 pm.
Filed under Uncategorized

Jason Kreis almost puts one in before two minutes are gone. I had to physically stop myself in mid “YES!” after I remembered he’s not our guy anymore.

Well, in a sense, Jason will always be “our guy”; just not tonight.

Another good chance in the 4th minute for RSL. What do they think this is? We’re FC DALLAS! You can’t . . . it’s just . . . I . . . you . . .

Never mind. It is a home game for them, after all.

This is another week where the new guys have to step up and fill in gaps caused by injury and national team duty. Mina is in, Aaron Pitchkolan, Abe Thompson, and Arturo Alvarez also getting a chance to shine. Mina has a résumé in the game already, of course, but is still a bit of an unknown quantity here in MLS. The others are primed to make a name for themselves in this rare, and hopefully brief, window.

Good run and shot by Alvarez in the 18th. That’s just about the first trouble we’ve caused D.J. Countess tonight. I’m glad to see D.J. doing well. I liked the kid when he was here, and like him even better now. I read an article about him this week, and it seems he’s pouring thousands of dollars of his own money into a charitable foundation he himself started.

WOOOOHOOO! Speaking of young whippersnappers, Ronnie O’Brien makes it 1-nil.

“Ronnie, a whippersnapper?” I hear you cry. But wait, I didn’t tell you that Alvarez set the goal up by making a beauty of a pass to Abe, who scorched a shot that DJ saved but couldn’t keep from rebounding. All Ronnie had to do was be there. I love these kids.

I forgot to mention it earlier, but the USA’s loss is our gain tonight. Greg Vanney was in camp with the Nats this week but didn’t make the game day roster. Therefore we have him for tonight’s game. I mention this now because he just made a great hustling save off the line to keep RSL off the scoreboard. As it turned out, the USA did just fine without Greg today, puttin’ the wood to Costa Rica, 3-0. Heh heh heh.

Arturo Alvarez was left off the National Team that is in Holland for the U20 World Cup. Maybe he’ll find a little extra drive from that. It’s gotta hurt.

Alvarez nearly scores on a breakaway in the 43rd. A rank homer would claim he was fouled on the play, but I’ll defer to the referee this time. It was close though.

On the ensuing corner, Abe Thompson thumps one off the crossbar. It may still be vibrating. That’s twice he’s been close to scoring tonight; he came close last week in his debut against DCU as well. This kids going to be the real thing, methinks.

One-zip at halftime for the Football Club. The Young Guns look very, very good. I read a few commentators this week who said that newfound depth, caused by the creation of the Reserve League, has really intensified FCD practices, as more players fight for playing time.

Not to compare FCD to Manchester United, but it is exactly that kind of dog-eat-dog, Sir Alex Ferguson-esque competition, where you never know if you’ve performed well enough to keep your spot, which breeds quality and consistency. And further, it’s being done in Dallas without causing dissension and strife. The word is that this is the most unified Dallas team in a few years.

Not much going on here in the second half. RSL are pressing, but they don’t seem to on the same page in the attack. I wonder if Jason is wishing he had offered to take a salary cut to stay in Dallas. Just a thought.

Brian Dunseth has robbed Alvarez of two clear scoring opportunities tonight. Robbed.

2-NIL!!!!

This goal was a photographic negative of the first. On this one, it is Ronnie who breaks through, and drills a beauty of a shot. DJ saves it nicely, as before, only to give up a rebound that goes to none other than Abe Thompson who places it very neatly in the far corner and in the net. He was also the one who set up Ronnie for the initial shot with a lovely give-and-go combination. Very fine work on that goal. Primo.

You just couldn’t possibly ask for more out of these young kids. It’s incredible how they are responding. Someone pinch me; this can’t be true. It’s just too good.

I feel for D.J. He’s played well but losing. That’s never fun.

I know there’s 30 minutes left, and I hate to jinx things, but RSL do not look like they have a goal in them tonight. At. All.

Abe goes off for another of the Young Guns, Drew Moor. This is a defensive substitution. Which is fine at this point. But I still think we have another goal in us tonight.

Ronnie goes off in the 89th for Steve Jolley. He looks distressed (Ronnie, not Steve), as if he’s taken a knock or isn’t feeling well. I’m going to go into full denial mode now and forget that I saw that, or even typed in into this column. Some things just shouldn’t be contemplated.
Three minutes of stoppage time. No worries. That’s not a phrase I’ve been accustomed to typing during injury time in days of yore. But tonight, truly, no worries.

What a good day this has been. 3-0 for the Nats, 2-0 for the Hoops. Oh, and did I mention I’m on vacation? If I had a personal life that wasn’t like a Shakespearean comedy, things would be pretty sweet. Or maybe it’s a Shakespearean tragedy . . . no, comedy, definitely. Aren’t they the ones with happy endings?

Peace to all the cats. I’m out like corduroy jeans.

See you next week for some BRIMSTOOOOOONE!

Yes, we’re heading north to the City of Big Shoulders for the season’s second Brimstone Cup match against the Fire (who, by the way, put FIVE on Chivas today). Should be a blast. Anybody driving from Dallas for the game is welcome to pick me up in Edmond and take me along. I’m an excellent traveling companion, being the raconteur and wordsmith that I am, and will gladly split gas costs as long as you’re willing to take a check that is postdated to 2007.

Goodnight everybody, tip your waitstaff and drive safely!

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: USA v COSTA RICA


by @ 10:53 pm.
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First ever qualifier for Salt Lake City. They’ve gone all out, putting a nice grass field down at Rice-Eccles Stadium. They even had the sense to put the turf down early enough to let it grow together and get some roots. Well done, indeed.

Whoa! Early goal for the USA! Landon Donavan belts a shot from just inside the penalty area. No chance whatsoever for Álvaro Mesén. Early scoring is not a hallmark of American soccer, so it’s nice to see when it happens.

No start for Clint Dempsey or Pat Noonan. Revs fans across the country are screaming WHY? WHY DID YOU TAKE THEM IF YOU WEREN’T GOING TO USE HIM! Of all MLS teams, New England Revolution were gutted the most severely by call ups for this game (although I guess there’s really no such thing as an un-severe gutting), losing Ralston, Dempsey, and Noonan. That’s half of their goal production for the season missing.

Things worked out a little better for Greg Vanney. Even though he doesn’t make the final roster, fortunately for him, his FC Dallas are playing ReAL Salt Lake following the USA match in the same venue. He’ll get a start for club, if not for country.

The Ticos are hacking away at DaMarcus Beasley, knowing that he’s just coming back from knee surgery. Nice, fellas, nice.

Beasley almost scores at the half-hour mark off a beautiful through ball from Kerry Zavagnin.

Beasley gets another cynical hack from Gilberto Martiniez. The guy wasn’t even trying for the ball, and went studs up on Beasley’s lower leg. He should rightly have been sent off, but at least he got a card.

Rice-Eccles looks nearly full, and Sam’s Army, as expected, is in the house and letting their voices be heard. This is one of the few home matches I remember where the American fans don’t seem to be outnumbered by the visiting fans. Not a large Costa Rican community in Salt Lake, I’m guessing.

Costa Rica puts one in the net towards the end of the first half, but the play is called offside. That’s a darn shame, eh? All jingoism aside, it was a good fair call. It was also the first time Kasey Keller has been challenged since kickoff.

Kasey, by the way, is 22-2-4 since 1998 in international matches played on American soil. Or American grass, I guess I should say. Either way, it’s an incredible record.

So it’s 1-nil for the boys in RW&B at the half.

You know, friends, one of the few drawbacks of satellite television is that during a heavy downpour or thunderstorm, the signal from up in space gets kind of haywire. Also, said haywireness is normally more severe in direct correlation to the importance of what one is watching. Right now, I got nuthin’.

Fortunately, it is halftime, and Oklahoma storms come and go like, well, like the wind, I guess; suffice to say I’m keeping positive and hoping this will blow over before the whistle blows for second half. If I have to miss the feature on Curt Onalfo and the Concacaf qualifying roundup so be it. But past that, my mental health will begin to suffer.

The only upside is that the waving wheat, is sure smells sweet, when the wind comes right behind the rain.

But I digress. The soccer gods having smiled upon me (metaphorically, that is, I’m actually a strict monotheist in these matters), The picture comes back almost precisely as the game restarts. Sweet. I’d attribute this good fortune to clean livin’, but well, why press my luck, you know?

Kasey is immediately challenged by an early shot and comes up with a great parrying save. A little confusion in the back between Carlos Bocanegra and one of the other defenders. No harm no foul, though.

We quickly counter and nearly score as lil’ Stevie Ralston just misses getting on the good side of a cross by Landon Donavan. A quite eventful first three minutes.

Another good stop by Keller as Rojas gets a breakaway. Costa Rica have adjusted there timing a bit, after being called offside no less than six times in the first half.

Josh Wolff keeps making great runs but keeps failing to make effective crosses. If Bruce Arena shows patience, he’ll get his act together and be fine. But, with all the talent on the US roster these days, I’m not sure that will happen.

Yet another good save by Kasey. Costa Rica have come out of the locker room with bad intent. I’m not sure what their coach said at halftime, but it worked.

And then in the 60th, Keller’s fourth save is his best. Soto hits a terrific header, down and to Kasey’s left, and the man makes a stupendous one handed diving save. Unbelievable, this man is.

Ask Romario.

2-0! Great diving header by Brian McBride is greeted by an even better save by Mesén, but Donavan streaks in to pop the rebound in the back of the net. You have to say, in all honestly, that this goal was against the run of play; the aggressive Tico attacking really had us on our heels. Yet that’s the kind of goal we need to be scoring. The back breaker.

Pat Noonan gets in the game after all. Josh Wolff comes out. I’m rooting for Josh, but I’m afraid his chances are dwindling. He’s having a terrific season for the Wizards, however, and that carries a lot of weight with Bruce. We’ll see.

At the risk of repetiveness, Kasey Keller comes up big, again, in the 70th.

I’m starting to get annoyed at the thuggery of the Ticos. I’ve never considered them an “enemy” in soccer terms (ahemMEXICOahem), just an opponent. They’re starting to tip the scales however.

Bocanegra, Convey, and Zavagnin have had solid games tonight. Boca, I’m pretty sure, is a locked-in starter, but Convey and Zavagnin needed good games to increase their odds of getting on more rosters in more qualifiers.

Beasley off for Clint Dempsey. Great game by DaMarcus, especially considering he hurt his knee not much more than 15 weeks ago.

Brian McBride gets a well deserved goal in the 87th. Dempsey nearly scored, and Mr. Bake knocked in the rebound, even though two guys were marking him and THREE guys were standing on the goal line. Like I said, well deserved. The Ticos will be seeing McBride and Donavan in their nightmares for a while.

And that, as they say, is that. A handy 3-0 wind for los estados unidos. Qualification for Germany is just about in the ba . . . wait, what am I thinking? I’m not going to be the one who puts the mojo on this team . . . okay, start again. Qualification is within our reach, though definitely not assured; we’ll have to keep up this level of play up through the Mexico game in September .

Whew. That was close.

See you Wednesday for Panama.

May 28, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: DC UNITED v DALLAS


by @ 9:38 pm.
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As he promised, Brad Sham used the phrase “The Football Club” three times during the opening segment of FSSW’s telecast. It sounded very good. Very good indeed. Brad is best known as the voice of the Dallas Cowboys (they play American football, I’m told), yet he brings a high level of professionalism to all his soccer work; attending practices, keeping current on personnel issues; he’s very much a man in the know. He does great work, and in my estimation, Brad is a soccer guy.

Brad and Dave Dir got into a discussion early on about Freddy Adu and Peter Nowak; they’ve been having problems getting along, if you believe the press (which I don’t, generally). They were discussing Brad’s 16-year-old and Dave’s U-20 team; Dir made the wry and diplomatic observation that kids that age tend to “have all the answers to life’s questions, no doubt.” Dave Dir bringin’ the funny. Gotta love it.

So, no EJ, no Vanney, no Mulrooney, no Talley. Other than that we’re in great shape (gulp). Good opportunity for the Young Guns to make their bones. Mina getting his first start, and Alvarez is in as well. Also, young Aaron Pitchkolan looking to keep his consecutive game scoring streak going. It now stands at one. Chris Gbandi needs to do a Gbang up job as well (sorry about that. It’s a disease and I can’t help myself).

Dirty dirty Dema is on the field. Unfortunately. Ronnie gave him a little elbow first time they hooked up. I hope he gives him more than that before the evening is over. Freddy gets a well deserved start as well. The way this kid has raised his game this season is very impressive.

On the subject of Freddy, everyone who doesn’t think Peter Nowak knows exactly what he’s doing with regards to that young man should get a grip on reality and shut up (IMG, I’m looking in your direction). Nowak went pro in his mid-teens. Nowak played at the highest levels. Nowak is a winner. Nowak has forgotten more about soccer than all of his critics combined. Shut up and let him run the team. Freddy couldn’t be in better hands.

There. I have spoken. The subject is closed.

What?

As I’ve said many times before, the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava are the best fans in the country. The sound they’re producing gives the game a European style atmosphere. And, they make the stands shake; that’s undeniably cool.

Pretty even play in the first 20 minutes. Ruiz just got hacked and the ref didn’t even give him a second look. He apparently hasn’t gotten the memo about Carlos’s new outlook on diving since getting to Dallas. The DC folks are booing him roundly. Yet they cheer Dema. Life is strange, ain’t it?

Moments later, Alvarez breathes hard in Freddy’s direction and Mr. Valenzuela gives the foul. Uh-huh, yeah … riiiiight.

Hey this ain’t journalism folks, this is commentary. Objectivity is only a secondary consideration in this space. But even when I’m subjective, I’m right. Always. Okay, most of the time. All right . . . more often than not. Happy?

Mina just misses from distance; keep taking those shots, kid; early and often. I’m okay with that, aren’t you?

Clarence Goodson gets yellowed up. I usually like Mr. Valenzuela’s work, but he’s on my bad side tonight.

FC Dallas equipment manager Marcus Owens gets thrown out of the game for giving Mr. V a bit too much stick from the bench. Marcus, if we ever meet, the beer’s on me. Memo to Greg Elliott: Give that man a raise. Or at least a bonus.

Ronnie just tracked back about fifty yards to help Bobby Rhine, who got beat by Eskandarian. I love this guy. In a very manly and soccer-type sense, I love this man.

Alvarez just got booked too. I believe he may have neglected to bow before his tackle on Freddy.

It took a forearm to Ruiz’s neck for Mr. V to finally give a yellow card to someone on the DC roster. Boswell is a bit of a dema, it looks like (hey, I invented an adjective. I amaze myself sometimes).

Nil-nil at halftime. Good, entertaining game. It’s a tossup as to who has the advantage. Certainly neither side can claim anything approaching “momentum” going into the final 90 minutes. A road win would be glorious for us. It’s achievable; definitely achievable.

DIPSY SELOLWANE!! Carlos Ruiz just scored the goal of the year just three minutes into the second half.

Beautiful little chip from Mina on the right side of the box. Carlos does a ¾ overhead volley and NAILS it into the upper right corner. Poor Nicky Rimando barely moved, then just stood there with a look on his face that said it all. That was class friends, pure class. Then Carlos ran over and gave some love to group of Guatemalan fans in the stands. Another example of class. He’s like a different guy since he came to Dallas. 1-0 to the Football Club.

Alvarez almost doubles the lead a minute later with a thumper of a shot from nearly the same spot Ruiz scored from. Rimando did well to get it over the crossbar.

OH!!! Ruiz chips Rimando then gets dumped by Namoff as he retrieves his own pass and goes for goal. PK for the good guys. Ruiz spots it up and beats Rimando to his left. Namoff, who should be off for that foul, doesn’t even get a yellow. Uh-huh . . . riiiiiight.

2-0 to the boys! Ruiz isn’t a big guy, but he’s carrying the team on his shoulders tonight.

Though, I must say, the back four for have been solid as a rock. I hope I’m not puttin’ the gris-gris on them by saying that, but they sure look good.

Another mean shot from Mina. Good save by Little Nicky.

Gbandi is having a good game on the left. Hermann Trophy winners seem to have the same type of curse that Heisman winners have. At the very least, it’s not a guarantee of a successful professional career. I’m really rooting for Chris to get a starting job, though. He seems like such a good kid and has been nothing but patient and hardworking for the team.

Ben Olsen takes a kick at Gbandi and doesn’t even get a verbal warning. Nice.

DC are pouring on the pressure with about twenty to minutes to go. We’re holding them off for now. Adu gets a free kick from the right side; makes a nice cross which gets popped back to Dema who skies his shot, landing it somewhere on the banks of the Potomac.

Moreno gets a nicely chipped ball from Gomez and makes a great shot, only to be robbed by the left post. Jaime is aging like a fine wine.

Oh, unbelievable! Gomez (I think) charges down the left baseline and shoots it directly parallel to the goal line. A breath would have put it over the line, but no one could get to it. Scott Garlick would have gotten a gray hair, except for the fact that he . . . well, never mind.

Wags comes in for Alvarez. Nice to see him healthy again, after he cracked his kneecap against the EarthQlash. I’ve never had my kneecap cracked, but just typing the words makes me hurt. I can’t imagine that not being a painful knock.

Folks it is all DC right now. Ruiz is the only one not back defending. And I mean defending desperately. This has been a great game to watch, win, lose or draw. It’s one of those games where you hope someone, somewhere, is watching his first soccer game ever. They’d be hooked. Well, maybe if they started watching after halftime, anyway.

Carlos just misses the Hat Trick with a close-in header. Ten minutes to go.

Ronnie tries to chip Rimando from distance. That would almost have been too much. Not that I wouldn’t take it, mind you.

Ruiz seems to have taken a knock and his holding his ankle. He’s coming off and Abe Thompson is getting what I believe is his first senior team appearance. Brad Sham tells us he’s the all time leading scorer at Maryland. This is not only interesting, but proves my point about Brad Sham. The guy knows everything, I’m tellin’ ya.

Jolley and Garlick save Gbandi from being responsible for a goal. Bad pass by Chris right to Carroll. Heh, you thought I was going to say “save Gbandi’s Gbacon”, didn’t you. HA!

Ohhhhhhh……. Abe Thompson just barely misses scoring his first professional goal. Nice chip shot, but it jussst scrapes the crossbar. That would have been a dream start for the kid.

Four minutes of stoppage time. Goodson almost gives up an autogol, but Garlick makes a kick save on his own man, right to DDD. Kovalenko skies another shot to somewhere near the Pentagon. Darn shame, that.

Full time, baby. 2-nil to the good guys.

What a great road win. Without a full strength squad, we shut out a good offensive team and get two goals. Awesome. Just awesome. Unbelievable work by the boys in the back. Five games unbeaten for the Football Club, with a lot of road games still to come before the opening of Frisco in August. Life is good, footballistically, my friends, life is good.

See you next week for ReAL Salt Lake.

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: USA V ENGLAND


by @ 4:54 pm.
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So, we give up a goal in the 4th minute. No big deal. I bet Bruce is smiling inwardly, even. We need to see how tough the boys are right now, going into the next round of qualifiers. What better way to find out than to go down a goal early?

It was a beautiful free kick goal by Kieran Richardson, in his first ever start for England. He was a big part of West Brom’s survival in the Permiership this year. The kid’s only 20 years old, to boot. Sven’s looking like a genius right off the bat.

Wolff misses a close half-volley chance right after England’s goal. He hasn’t missed many this season in Kansas City, which is why he’s getting a start today. He’s also gotten a couple of good runs on the right wing, but has muffed the crosses. Nerves, I’m guessing.

Somebody needs to tackle Alan Smith, but hard. He’s a talented forward, but a bit of a thug. Vanney needs to welcome him to the New World by making him kiss the turf before the half is over, methinks.

The play is fairly even after fifteen minutes, the goal notwithstanding. The days of an American team being awestruck or intimidated by the mere sight of an English jersey are way behind us. Even if the English don’t exactly agree to a man, the truth is we’re in a game with our peers, not our betters, today.

Ooooooooooh! Landon hits a long free kick from the left side and beats David James. Unfortunately, he didn’t beat the left post, but it was still very nicely struck.

Kasey comes a good 10 yards out of the penalty area and heads a long ball clear. Moments later he robs Joe Cole with a nice diving save. Cole struck it hard and on target from 20 yards out. A healthy Kasey is key for our World Cup hopes. Not that our country is short on quality goalkeepers; we’re deeper than the Marianas Trench at that position. But Kasey is well nigh unbeatable when playing internationally. Ask Romario.

Zavagnin misses just high. That would have been great for his international career. I like that guy. Always have. Quiet but solid. I know the Wizards are glad he didn’t catch on in England over the winter.

Donavan again just missing. Hit it wide left off a perfectly headed ball from Josh Wolff. I can’t see the English shutting us out today. How many we get, or how many give up I don’t know; but I just don’t see us staying off the board.

There is a huge Sam’s Army section right behind David James’ goal. I’d love to hear what kind of smack they’re yelling at him. Good job by the Guys (and girls) in red today.

Richardson strikes again just before halftime. Nicely worked goal by Eng-er-land. Pope uncharacteristically misplayed the ball, allowing Joe Cole to run right up the the 18 and hit an umarked Richardson. Nice finish. He may be this year’s Shrek, uh, I mean, this year’s Wayne Rooney. Sorry.

So we’re down 2-0 at halftime. Still no worries. The second goal was the only really bad bit of football we played. Crisper finishing was called for, to be sure, but we did create chances. Possession was about even, and but for the previously mentioned goal, defensively we were okay.

That buzzing sound you hear, however, is the cumulative sound of BigSoccer posters on their keyboards, calling for Bruce Arena’s head on a silver cyber-platter. So, please, go ahead and roll your eyes now, and save yourself some time, okay?

Five minutes in to the second half, and we’ve had most of the attack. Once again, finishing is the problem, not creating chances.

Normally, I’m a big fan of defenders pushing up and taking long distance shots. But our defenders today . . . well, suffice to say I’m rethinking that position.

Unless he comes up with a goal, Josh Wolff is going to regret this cap. He’s showing the exact opposite form he’s showed in MLS this year. Only the harshest fan, though, wouldn’t forgive all if he scores. I know I would.

Kieran Richardson goes off in the 59th minute for Phil Neville. This shows two things. First, Richardson picked up a knock, because there is no way he’s tired and he’s scored twice. Second, Sven is going to drop back and protect his two goal lead. Yeah, that worked really well for AC Milan last week, didn’t it? The best way to protect a two goal lead is to make it a three goal lead. Playing defensively is a bad idea, even if it just so happens to work once in a while.

Well, I may be wrong about that. Looks like Neville has taken Richardson’s midfield spot instead of going to the back. Good for you Sven.

Better attacking from USA now, here around the 70 minute mark. Zat Knight got away with a handball in the box for England, at least according to the crowd noise index. Wolff is doing slightly better on the left side. Dempsey seems to be a bit out of his element today, however. I’m not worried about that kid, though. He’s going to be big for us soon enough.

We get a good free kick chance just outside the box in the 72nd. Wolff fails to get his redeeming goal, but does get a corner, but to no avail.

Pope comes off for Boca. Pope had a terrible game, as much as I hate to say it. Convey comes on for Stevie Ralston, who was uncharcteristically uninvolved today.

Another free kick chance in the 77th. Nada. We look like a rec team compared to England in this area of the game. But only in this area.

OOOOOOOOOOOOHH CLINT DEMPSEY!

GOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!

Bocanegra nearly scores off the long service from the left side, but David James comes up with the save only to have Clint head it down and in for his first international goal. Sweet sweet sweet. Did I tell you Clint was gonna be big for us? DID I TELL YOU?!

Ten minutes remaining.

Conor Casey almost ties it up right after coming on the field for Brian McBride. Vanney gets a shot from the rebound, but boots it into Lake Michigan.

Fast and furious attack from the boys, This is the intensity we lacked in the first half. Wolff is continuing to improve as well.

Only 1:30 left. Come on boys. Come on.

Two minutes stoppage. David James spills one in the box, but no one was close enough to make anything of it.

Full time. A spirited 2-1 loss to the Mother Country.

It’s okay. We beat ‘em when it counted. YEAH WASHINGTON! IN YOUR FACE CORNWALLIS! USA! USA!!

Sorry.

Don’t listen to the doom-sayers. This was a good tune up for the upcoming qualifiers. Panama and Los Ticos will seem like high school squads compared to this match.

All is well in Nats land, kids. We’re on track. Don’t sweat it at all.

May 25, 2005

UNBELIEVABLE


by @ 4:37 pm.
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Well, if I live to be a hundred, I don’t think I’ll ever see a more amazing football match.

The UEFA Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan is one for the ages. First of all, Liverpool weren’t even supposed to make it to the championship game in Istanbul (not Constantinople). They limped in to the competition, placing 4th in the English Premier League last season. This meant they had to start their season earlier than expected, and had to make it through the qualifying stages to even have a shot at getting to the final. It had to be a bit depressing; facing a long grueling Premier League season, they had to end holidays early, travel to the backwaters of Europe (well, okay, Austria, but playing against Grazer AK just for the opportunity to get to Group Stage play wasn’t what they had in mind when they started the 2003-2004 season).

But get there they did, and just kept winning and winning. All the while having a disappointing season in England. They made it to the finals, against all odds. They had to be happy to even be there. But, being Liverpool, one of the most succesful football clubs in history, “happy to be here” isn’t something the players were likely to say, or even feel.

So what happens in the final? They give up a goal in the first minute of the first half, and two more in the next 44 minutes, and go to the locker room down 3-0 to one of the best clubs in the world.

So what now? What do you say if you’re Rafa Benitez? What do you say if your team captain Steven Gerrard, who is FROM Liverpool, for Pete Best’s sake? How do you react as a player? Mail it in and be glad you got that far? Get on your cell phone and book a tee-time at your favorite golf course? Who could blame them if they did? Three goals down to AC Milan is not a tenable position with 45 minutes left in your season.

I’d love to know what was said in there, because Liverpool came out for the second half and pulled off one of the greatest comebacks, not just in soccer history, but in sports history. The game ended 3-3, and you just couldn’t believe what you were seeing. Instead of mailing it in and warming up the bus, they went to three defenders, added a midfielder, and played absolute lights out soccer, while Milan dropped back and tried to mark time until the trophy presentation.

Never a good idea. Never.

So the game ends tied. Two 15 minute overtimes, and possible penalty kicks to follow if no goals are scored.

But how could you top the preceding 90 minutes? Who could possible come up with something to out-do that?

Jerzy Dudek. That’s who.

Dudek, the greatest goalkeeper Poland has ever produced, took over. One is tempted to use the old “carried the team on his shoulders” saw, and in this case, it might even be worthy of being dusted off. His first superhuman save came just before the end of the second overtime period. Andrei Shevchenko tracked down a long cross from the left flank and hit a thumping header from about 8 yards out. The reaction save Dudek pulled off was good enough. The ball was struck hard and down, and bounced at this feet; the hardest kind of shot to stop in all of football. It was a glorious and unlikely save.

But on the rebound, Shevchenko got a good five yard run on the ball, hit it as hard as he could from no more than three feet from the goal line, only to have the hero of Liverpool get a hand to the ball and hit it nearly straight up and over the crossbar. I watched the replay at least a dozen times, a couple of those on slow motion, and I still don’t know how he did that. You can say luck, but you’d be wrong. It was impetuous; it was Homeric.

Then, the dreaded penalty kick shootout. Nobody wants a game to end this way, but that’s the way it is.

Serginho took the first kick for AC Milan and didn’t even come close. The ball may have landed in Greece by the time it stopped flying. Fine. It happens. Plenty of chances left.

Dietmar Haman has no trouble beating Dida to make it 1-0 to Liverpool.

From here on in, it’s Jerzy time.

He saved Pirlo’s attempt, guessing correctly and diving to his right, making a parry save. Now, we have to be honest at this point and say that Dudek cheated a bit here. The rules say the ‘keeper can’t move forward until the kicker makes contact with the ball. Good ol’ Jerzey was at least a yard forward when the kick was taken, but the referee must have been dozing, or perhaps thinking of how he’d make it back to the hotel if he called for a re-kick. At any rate, the goal stands. Cisse comes on and easily puts it past Dida, and Liverpool are up 2-0 with three kicks left.

Thomasson beats Dudek cleanly to make it 2-1, Riise, surprisingly, gets beat when he hits a low shot just inside the left post, which is saved by a correctly guessing Dida. It’s 2-1.

Kaka (really, his name is Kaka), scores for Milan; Smicer, who scored such a great goal in the second half, does the same for his side. 3-2

Andrei Shevchenko (2004-2005 European Player Of The Year, mind you), who had been so cruelly brickwalled by Dudek just minutes before in extra time, has to make his penalty kick to keep Milan in the shootout. In what will surely be his nightmare for the forseeable future, he hits his shot straight down the middle, hoping to catch Dudek diving away, but it doesn’t work; Dudek starts to his right but holds up and snuffs the shot with his legs. Game over.

If you saw it in a movie, you’d ridicule the screenwriter for coming up with such drivel. But it happened. If you can catch the replay on television, or know somebody who taped it, it’s worth watching, even though you know the outcome.

I love this game.

May 23, 2005

MLS NOTES: WEEK 8


by @ 10:48 am.
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STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: CD CHIVAS USA V FC DALLAS


by @ 9:05 am.
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Some combination of stress, ennui, and/or depression caused me to conk out before the game started Sunday evening; so here I am at 4:00 Monday morning, watching the Tivo, trying to clear the cobwebs out of my head. It must not be working, because I thought I just saw Aaron Pitchkolan score a goal in the first minute of the match. I gotta get a cup of coffee. That can’t be right, can it?

Yep. Unless my subconscious has instant replay, looks like it really did happen. Huh. Could’ve sworn I was having one of those early morning waking dreams.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a faster FCD goal, or a more aggressive start. I’m not sure what Colin Clarke said to them, but the boys came out like sharks around blood.

Good old Martin Zuniga, much beloved veteran of the Mexican first division and usurper of Brad Guzan’s starting role, gave up the goods 42 seconds into his MLS career. I’d love to know what was going through young Brad’s mind at that moment. I was going to criticize Thomas Rongen for making the switch, but then it occurred to me: that call probably came from a little higher up in the organization *coughcoughVERGARAcoughcough*.

Bobby Rhine gives up a penalty kick in the 19th minute. Unlike the one against KC the other week, this one was pretty definite. Cuadros ties the match. All 4,000 people at the Home Depot Center go nuts. Great.

Still and all we seem to have the majority of the possession and more of the dangerous runs going for us. Pitchkolan is giving the veteran Ezra Hendrickson everything he can handle and then some. Good showing for the young man so far.

Instead of using possession, passing and dribbling to get forward, Chivas are flopping their way to the goal at this moment. Very shrewd. I love the way Clarence Goodson never fails to give a diving opponent an earful before moving on. He’ll be hoarse before this game is over.

Pescadito gets dumped in the penalty area in the 39th minute and doesn’t even get a whiff of a penalty kick. Ezra Hendrickson plain ran him over. Nada. Carlos didn’t get a chance to make a dive, even if he had wanted to. Which I’m sure he didn’t. Because he’s not that kind of player.

What?

Christian Miles is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I generally like his work, but he’s such a homer when calling Chivas games that it makes me ill. Why can’t someone invent a button that leaves the crowd noise but gets rid of the commentary? I’d pay a premium for that, wouldn’t you?

Halftime. Tied at ones. Good attacking possession soccer from the boys. Chivas mostly counterattacking and picking on Bobby Rhine. We should win this game, no doubt.

Second half, and Martin Zuniga gives up the goods again, this time a mere three minutes in. Ruiz gets the ball about 20 yards out, back to goal, turns Sequeira like a 45 rpm record, and beats Martin to his near post with a roller. Zuniga looked like he was going to bust out in tears. He’ll be on the bench before Independence Day.

DIPSY SELOLWANE!!! Ronnie O’Brien with another of those long range bombs we’ve come to know and love. 30 yards out, point blank, Zuniga has no chance. The good guys with a two goal lead five minutes into the second half.

Chivas pull one back almost immediately. Romo with a nicely taken header. No chance for Scott Garlick. Weak defending on the right flank from Gbandi and Pitchkolan to give up the cross. It’s okay, though, I think we have a few more rounds in the chamber. 3-2, good guys. Entertaining game. Shame no one was there to see it live in Los Angeles. What’s up with the Galaxy outdrawing Chivas? The place was rocking Saturday for the EarthQlash match; about half as many today. Go figure.

Chivas are starting to feel some confidence. Getting possession, knocking it around a bit. Why am I not worried? I just don’t see this team beating us. It’s not like me to feel this way. I’m generally such a glass-half-empty kinda guy. Must be the coffee.

Ramon Nunez comes out of the game for Drew Moor in the 69th. Terrific game from young Ramon. He’s going to be a good one. He worked well in attack with the veterans and caused trouble all night for the Chivas defense.

OH!!!! 4-2! Lovely run up the left side by Pitchkolan, who makes a cross right down the 18 to Eddie Johnson who hits it first time and beats Zuniga like a drum. Any game where Ronnie, Pescadito, and EJ all score . . . well, we’re just not going to be able to lose one of those.

If I haven’t made myself clear heretofore, I am categorically NOT impressed with the great Martin Zuniga. At any rate, the guy is no Jorge Campos. For that matter, he’s no Brad Guzan.

Twenty minutes left, and we are in control. I’d like to see the defense buckle down and shut-out Chivas for the rest of the game. But I really don’t think it matters. Thomas Rongen is in a no-win situation with this club. In fact I think he was hired with his firing in mind. He might make it to the end of the season, but not much longer.

Roberto Mina comes in at the 75 minute mark, replacing Eddie Johnson. EJ looks to have gotten stomped on the foot, and came off limping. I refuse to even entertain the idea that it’s anything worse than a bruise. Denial actually IS just a river in Egypt; at least in my world.

The final 10 minutes are kind of anti-climatic. Chivas pushing forward, but mostly ending up offside or shooting inaccurately. Dallas countering when they can but mostly just taking their time and playing defense. Chivas tired and frustrated, but to their credit, not getting dirty.

Ronnie makes way for Arturo Alvarez with five minutes left. Ronnie elevated his game to an even higher level tonight in response to the loss of Richard Mulrooney. Who would have thought a higher level was even possible for this man?

Just to rub it in, Ruiz beats three or four defenders, gets a shot off (which Zuniga actually handles very nicely), and new guy Roberto Mina buries the rebound to make it a five goal game for our heroes. Sweet.

Full time. 5-2 for the Football Club. Good win. Some defensive issues showed themselves, but come on, for a team that got absolutely clobbered with injuries in the last 10 days, it was a great showing.

Good work from the kids; Pitchkolan, Nunez, and Goodson come to mind, and of course, the brilliance of the Big Three was just . . . well, it was brilliant. Rhine continues to pile on the pressure offensively, while continuing to learn his defensive duties. All in all, an encouraging 90 minutes in a week that saw Mulrooney go down for the season, Wags get hurt, and Talley take a knock as well.

Oh, and it was all on the road, too. The boys came from behind Wednesday to beat Colorado, and totally dominated tonight against Chivas. Did I forget to mention they laid down the grass at Frisco this week? Sweeeeeeet.

Yeah, I’ll take that. Any day. See you next Saturday for DC United and Dirty Dirty Dema.

May 15, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: SAN JOSE v FC DALLAS


by @ 5:18 pm.
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I couldn’t tell what kind of reception Richard Mulrooney got from the San Jose crowd, but if there’s any justice, all 1,000 people there would have stood up and cheered the man for his service to the EarthQlash.

The good news for the first half is that we didn’t come right out and concede a goal within the first five minutes, as has been the pattern for a few weeks. Scott Garlick is sharp as usual, and the defense looks wayyy more organized than against Kansas City.

Troy Dayak goes down after running into Eddie Johnson, and winds up going off. It didn’t look as bad as all that, but apparently he wrenched or twisted the knee fairly severely. Of course, having broken his neck a few years ago, every game is a gift for Troy, one of the few bona-fide “tough guys” in the league.

Both Richard Mulrooney and Brian Ching go off with injuries within a few minutes of each other. It’s starting to look like a quality-of-turf issue at Spartan Stadium. Neither Richard nor Brian really suffered any contact, but rather lost firm footing briefly, suffering that tiny little twist that knees are so averse to. Both looked to have potentially long-term knocks. That grinding noise you hear is Bruce Arena’s teeth wearing down to nothing over the thought of Ching being out for the next round of qualifiers.

So a nil-nil half, not much excitement, but three potentially long-term injuries. Only a few good chances apiece, and one robbery-job apiece for Garlick and Pat Onstad. Not the greatest half of soccer I’ve ever seen, but the score is level, and I’m okay with that.

I think one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen in soccer is the huge orange sign reading “Ultras” in one corner of Spartan Stadium, with about, oh, being generous, eight people standing behind it. I’m sure they make up for their lack of numbers with intensity and dedication . . . but “Ultras”?

The pace is picking up with a half-hour to go, but neither side is looking as if they simply must get on the board anytime soon.

Brad Sham tells us that Ching’s injury is actually a hamstring strain rather than a knee problem. Not great news, in and of itself, but I suppose even a bad hammy is better than a bad knee.

Brian Mullan gets whacked on the back of the leg and has to go off as well. All three San Jose substitutions have been for injuries. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before in a soccer game.

Great save by Garlick in the 63rd minute to keep us in the game. It was a sharp header which then deflected off Eddie’s noggin, changing direction after Garlick had already reacted. Great reflexes by the Grey Ghost.

Oscar Pareja gets a yellow card for diving. I never thought I’d ever type those words. Bad call by an otherwise very competent referee, Mr. Erich Simmons.

Lots of pressure from San Jose, with most of our offense coming from counterattacks.

Now it’s looking like a goal is coming sooner or later. The stench of a one-nil result is thick in the air; like a polecat stretched out on a hot Texas highway (sometimes I amaze myself with this uncanny ability to paint a picture with words).

Bobby Rhine for the second week in a row is causing all sorts of trouble with his overlapping runs on the right side. He’s not just streaking down the touchline and making crosses; he’s taking people on and forcing defenders to help out on him, opening up space in the box. He’s really starting to take to this defender role, albeit by contributing as much to the offense as he did last year up front.

I’m getting nervous with three minutes left. San Jose are famous for the last minute winner, and they’re controlling the ball pretty nicely right now. Oscar Pareja, who came in as a sub for Mulrooney in the 35th, looks like he’s ready to come out in the 90th. He’s limping and a bit winded. Arturo Alvarez will finish the game. There should be quite a bit of added time, given the injuries in the second half. Mullan was down for quite a few minutes.

Whoa. Only two minutes? Does Mr. Simmons have a date tonight or something? Huh.

Well, another road draw. At least this week we kept a clean sheet. That’s an accomplishment. We didn’t look terribly potent on offense, but neither did San Jose. A fair draw, all in all. Not a stellar performance, but a solid defensive effort. Good stuff from Scotty Garlick and the boys in back. We’ll take it.

Mid-week game this Wednesday against Colorado, then, along with Willie Nelson, we’re on the road again; no more home games until July. Yeesh. Pack some extra socks and stuff guys, who knows if there’s a Wal-Mart in any of those towns.

See you Wednesday.

MLS NOTES: WEEK 7


by @ 5:10 pm.
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May 8, 2005

MLS NOTES: WEEK 6


by @ 9:19 pm.
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STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: WIZARDS v FC DALLAS


by @ 11:25 am.
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Before I can even come up with a witty introduction paragraph, the Boys are down 1-nil. Sasha Victorine heads in a corner kick. Scott Garlick got a hand to it but not enough to keep it out. I HATE IT when we’re behind before I can even get a witty introduction paragraph written.

Although this week it may be just as well, as I’m not feeling particularly witty. It has something to do with there only being three weeks of school left. For us teachers, time begins to slow to a crawl during this stretch. We get that desperate, “I’m not going to make it” kinda vibe going, and very little in life seems funny. After the 26th of this month, I’ll be the funniest cat alive. Until then, well . . . not so much.

That and the antidepressants aren’t working very well. But I digress.

Speaking of depressing, we’re unable to control the ball against the most defensive minded team in MLS. And, we just had a 2-on-1 break, and Eddie could neither get a shot or a cross off.

DIPSY SELOLWANE! I take back all the negativity. Bobby Rhine just made a perfect cross to Eddie, who nailed the header from six yards out. Bobby was so far forward he made the throw-in not far from the end line, got it right back, and made the cross. If the best defense is a good offense, then I’m very comfortable with Bobby in the back.

Now the Kansas City I know and love is emerging. Why they waited for Dallas to tie the game before they fell back into their shell, I don’t know. But it’s okay with me.

We’re knocking it around nicely right now, and Bobby’s still getting involved in the attack. You go, boy.

I just saw the Inferno Road Crew. Great shot of you guys throwing confetti after Eddie’s goal. I notice MudPoet is sans horns tonight. What’s the story, Travis?

Carlos just misses in the 39th. He was quite upset with himself. I wish I could read lips. Well, I kinda can, at least when it comes to professional-athlete-cussin’ lip-reading. Mostly because it’s a very limited vocabulary, and athletes tend to enunciate very nicely when they scream obscenities. But I never learned it in Spanish.

Just before the half, Scott Garlick saves a sure goal from Josh Wolff, who blew by someone, but I’ll be dag-nabbed if I can see numbers on these newfangled hoop shirts. If I had Hi Definition television, this would not be an issue. But if my Aunt had a mustache, she’d be my Uncle. Neither scenario is likely to happen anytime soon.

Rhine is causing all kinds of trouble for KC with his runs forward. They don’t seem to know what to do with him. He had another nice cross right before the halftime whistle.

So we’re all even going into the second half. Kansas City got the early goal, and got some good chances on the counter, but we still looked more dangerous, once we got going. We’re not a fast-starting team, however. We’re like an old Chevy pickup on a cold winter morning; gotta get the engine running for a good ten minutes or so before she’ll get up and go.

Apparently, this holds true for the second half as well, because Josh Wolff almost scored less than 30 seconds after the restart. Kansas City, oddly enough, came out guns-a-blazin’, as if they had noticed the same thing. Hmmmm.

Ah crap. Klein goes down in the box and KC gets the PK call. Seemed kinda soft to me, but nonetheless, Wolff buries the spot kick and we’re back to being down by a goal. Credit Wolff for taking a really fast throw in to release Klein. He took it so swiftly that it barely slowed down what was already a fast KC counter attack. Smart play by a guy who’s really getting his game back in form.

I’m going to channel the thoughts of El Jefe right now, and say SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP! Less than a minute after going up 2-1, Klein scores.

This was an inexcusable defensive lapse. Three guys, THREE GUYS standing around watching Burciaga’s 40-yard ball land right in front of goal. Vanney had his hands out like he was shielding an invisible player so Garlick could collect it, while Klein just runs right by him and unwraps it like a Christmas present it from eight yards out. That was not the defending of a professional soccer club. Wiz 3, FCD 1 in the 53rd minute.

Now the Wizards smell blood and are going for a fourth goal. When you get the Wizards to NOT drop back and protect a two goal lead, you’ve got defensive issues.

Finally, in around the 58th, we are starting to get some offense going. Problem is, Bo Oshoniyi is on top of his game and has robbed us twice in the span of about three minutes. A hard shot by Ronnie and a nicely taken header by Wagenfuhr both should have gone in, but for the fact that Bo knows goalkeeping.

And now a third save, that should go on Oshoniyi’s bubblegum card, if indeed he has one. Classic diving catch on Ronnie’s outside-of-the boot shot from 18 yards out. Bo has spent a lot of years in this league as a backup, after starting briefly for the Crew way back in ’96. He’s making the most of this opportunity and make no mistake about it. He’s actually one of my favorite non-Dallas players, but frankly, he’s killin’ me tonight.

Young Alvarez comes on for Carey Talley in the 68th.

Josh Wolff is just cutting up the Dallas D like they were the Sunday coupon page. He just made a 40 yard run right down the gut and got off a shot. Simo even tried to foul him along the way, but only fell down. When Simo can’t foul a guy off a run, it ain’t our night.

20 minutes left. Drinking has commenced.

Ronnie throws us a life line with a nice flicked-on headed goal in the 76th minute. Again it was Bobby Rhine with the service into the box. He’s getting more done offensively than he did when he played offense. 3-2, and hope springs eternal.

Gut check time. We’ve got the momentum going, and a tie would feel like a win after what I’ve seen tonight.

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUIZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ! That’s the kind of goal he was brought here to score! Beats three guys in the box, left footed shot across Bo’s body. 3-3.

That goal was made by Ronnie hustling back to track down Zavagnin at mid-field, getting him to cough up the ball, and then making a strong run right back to the KC end and getting the ball to Pescadito’s feet. That’s heart. That’s Ronnie.

Oh my. Preki comes into the game with six minutes left. It’s his first action since breaking his leg nearly two years ago. If this was ANY OTHER game but the Dallas game, I’d be rooting like a madman for the Great Man to get a winner for the Wizards.

But right now, it’d break my heart. Though I’d still, after a couple days to get over the pain, feel really really happy for him. One of the greats this league has ever seen, and he’s older than ME, for cryin’ out loud. The man’s going to be 42 in June, and he’s got every Dallas fan in the country scared to death right now.

Three minutes stoppage time. But before I watch it, I’m going to uncharacteristically pause the Tivo, get a Budweiser, and light a smoke. Yes, I’m a weak-hearted man, when it comes to these things. But I’m comfortable with it, OK?

Alright, here we go.

Oh! Ruiz just misses. Great long run by Mulrooney to set up the shot.

Arnaud gets fouled by Wags in Preki-land. I don’t think there was a chance on earth that he wasn’t taking this free kick. Fortunately, he makes a cross rather than a shot, and it comes to naught. Whew.

Full time. I don’t often say this, but that was a GREAT draw for the Football Club. Great effort, great heart, great finishing. And to be honest, I, shamefully, didn’t see it happening. Oh me of little faith.

Wow. See you next week for the EarthQlash game in San Jose.

May 2, 2005

NEW BLOG


by @ 1:23 pm.
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Do check out . . . off the post!

The writing is as cool as the name.

May 1, 2005

MLS NOTES: WEEK 5


by @ 4:33 pm.
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April 24, 2005

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS: FC DALLAS v Real Salt Lake


by @ 8:33 am.
Filed under Uncategorized

So the first time Carlos Ruiz went to ground tonight, in the 3rd minute, he got right up. He’s learning about America, the man is.

After that blatant foul, Richard Mulrooney beat our old friend D.J. Countess like a drum on the resulting fee kick. We’re getting off to fast starts at the venerable Cotton Bowl this season. It was a beautiful curling free kick from about 20 yards out; over the wall and just inside the left post. 1-0 for the good guys before the fourth minute is gone. Schweet.

RSL have one of my favorite players, Rusty Pierce. He’s a good tough defender, but I like him simply because he’s from UNCG, where I spent a couple of my junior years. I had about five junior years, but that’s a whole different story. When I was there, The G owned Division III soccer; they were a dynasty. Now they’ve moved up to Division I and have made the NCAA Tournament now and then, but aren’t yet the dominant force they once were.

It pains my heart every time they show a shot of the Inferno; I SHOULD BE THERE WITH THEM! Oh how I wish I had the means to make more home games. The drums sound great and you can hear the singing loud and clear. Travis is wearing the Horn Hat again, I see. I’m hoping he came up with a different method of attaching said horns this week. The last time, well, it wasn’t pretty folks, let me just leave it at that.

Dipsy Selolwane.

I didn’t have a comment; I just really like typing and saying “Dipsy Selolwane”. In fact, I may start using his name as an interjection . . . as in DIPSY SELOLWANE what a goal!!

Clint Mathis should have scored on that volley. Jason Kreis set him up nicely, having made a nice run down the right. I hope Jason got a standing ovation when he was introduced.

OH! 23rd minute: Ruiz just beat Countess, but not the far post, and Talley got to the rebound before D.J., but he was able to make the save.

Marlon Rojas just got Ronnie O’Briened in the box, but our favorite Irishman shot just high with his left foot. Hey I just made up a new adjective for “burned” . . . maybe it’ll catch on. Let’s all try to fit that into a casual conversation this week, shall we?

Eddie Johnson just missed a header from about 10 yards out in the 34th. That’s okay, though; you guys just keep letting him run around unmarked like that . . . I’m begging you .

DIPSY SELOLWANE what a goal! Just as I finished typing the last paragraph, Marlon Rojas got O’Briened again, but this time by Eddie, who nailed the left-footed shot past Countess. 2-0 to the Good Guys, 35th minute.

Halftime.

Rusty Pierce opens the second half by dropping Eddie in the box, but no call was forthcoming. Eddie was down for a few seconds, and you could hear the collective sound of every person in the house sucking wind in fear. Of course it wasn’t many people sucking wind, because it doesn’t look like more than 6,000 in the seats tonight.

Which is depressing.

Jason just forced Scott Garlick into his first real save of the night. And it was a beauty, because Jason hit it well; low and hard across the face of the goal. Scott got low and put a hand on it to keep it out.

Dallas came right back on the counter and Eddie rocketed a shot off the crossbar. I believe D.J. heard the ringing of the crossbar before he even reacted to the shot. The move Eddie put on Rojas . . . well, no one should have to be subjected to that. It just ain’t fair. Poor Marlon may be contemplating his employment alternatives after tonight’s game. It’s been just that bad for the kid.

Simo just got a yellow card, proving beyond all doubt that the Universe is unfolding as it should. It’s really not even an official game until Valakari’s been cautioned, is it?

Rusty Pierce fouls Carlos Ruiz in the box. No, really. He did. Carlos didn’t even have to think about diving. Not that he would ever do anything like that, of course. D.J. had no chance on the PK, and our heroes are now up 3-0.

If it’s not apparent by now, let me just state for the record that RSL have some real defensive issues. The foul that led to the penalty came about only because the great Eddie Pope got truly and goodly scorched by Ruiz, who made a beeline for the box, where Pierce was able to catch up to him, but not tackle him cleanly. ReAL are going to have to score bunches of goals the rest of the season if they’re going to offset this tendency. Bunches.

Eddie Pope and Eddie Johnson got their feet tangled at the top of the RSL penalty area, and they both went down. The referee, Mr. Grajeda, called a foul, and, shockingly, showed Pope a straight red card. For the life of me I don’t think he had that coming. It was barely even a foul. I think there’s an outside chance he may have got tossed for something he said to the ref after the whistle blew, but if so, it must have been something really naughty. Otherwise, I just don’t get it.

Eddie got up after a few minutes on the ground, and he was able to walk off on his own. Still, too scary for me.

On the ensuing free kick, D.J. Countess made one of the best saves of his young life. Ronnie O drilled a shot through the wall, D.J. didn’t even see it until the last second, and he made a gorgeous diving reaction save to his left. The rap on Countess has been that he makes the spectacular look easy, but the easy look difficult. He certainly did the former just then.

Eddie comes back on the field. Everybody can breathe again. At this point, with 10 minutes to go, I’d be happy with the boys being home and dry. After watching Eddie go down like that, my blood lust for a 4th goal has abated somewhat.

Having said that, however, I have to say it’s starting to look like shooting practice on the RSL side of the field. I love, LOVE the fact that Colin Clarke doesn’t have the boys take their foot off the gas in games like this. I think it was Anson Dorrance who once said the greatest respect you can show your opponent is to score as many goals as you can against them.

That’s the game. FCD 3-0 Real Salt Lake. Our boys have 10 points out of 12 possible and lead the West.

Pinch me.

See you next week, kids.

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